The FDA has just approved a new treatment for advanced prostate cancer. The FDA has approved Provenge, a cellular immunotherapy drug. It is the first drug approved by the FDA in its class. Provenge works by stimulating the body’s own immune system to attack the cancer. Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer amoung men in the U.S and prostate cancer is the second most common form. The National Cancer Institute reports that in 2009 approximately 27,000 men died from prostate cancer and 192,000 new cases were reported.
Provenge is manufactured using the patient’s blood. Immune cells from the blood sample are processed to enhance their ability to fight cancer in a process known as leukapheresis. The cells are then re-administered to the patient intravenously in three doses. The FDA was prompted to approve this therapy following a study of 512 patients with advanced prostate cancer. Patients taking Provenge lived an average of 4 months longer than those who did not receive the treatment. Nearly every patient who received the Provenge therapy experienced adverse reactions including back pain, joint pain, chills, fatigue, fever, headache, nausea, or stroke. Provenge costs $93,000 for a total of three required dosages.